Mapping the skeptical blogosphere – WUWT seems to be the most central blog

From the thanks for painting a target on my back department comes word of a new paper that attempts to figure our the mapping of the climate skeptic blogosphere.

Bishop Hill writes:

Readers may remember Amelia Sharman as one of the authors of the “Entrepreneur” paper, about the disreputable shenanigans that led to the EU’s biofuels mandate.

Amelia is now in the midst of a PhD looking at global warming sceptics and has just published a working paper, describing the results of a social network analysis of sceptic blogs.

The paper abstract is (full paper link follows):

==============================================================

Title:                           Mapping the climate sceptical blogosphere

Author:                      Amelia Sharmanab

Affiliation:                 a Department of Geography and Environment, London School of Economics and Political Science, Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment

Abstract

While mainstream scientific knowledge production has been extensively examined in the academic literature, comparatively little is known about alternative networks of scientific knowledge production. Online sources such as blogs are an especially under-investigated site of knowledge contestation. Using degree centrality and node betweenness tests from social network analysis, and thematic content analysis of individual posts, this research identifies and critically examines the climate sceptical blogosphere and investigates whether a focus on particular themes contributes to the positioning of the most central blogs. A network of 171 individual blogs is identified, with three blogs in particular found to be the most central: Climate Audit, JoNova and Watts Up With That. These blogs predominantly focus on the scientific element of the climate debate, providing either a direct scientifically-based challenge to mainstream climate science, or a critique of the conduct of the climate science system, and appear to be less preoccupied with other types of scepticism that are prevalent in the wider public debate such as ideologically or values-motivated scepticism. It is possible that these central blogs in particular are not only acting as translators between scientific research and lay audiences, but, in their reinterpretation of existing climate science knowledge claims, are filling a void by opening up climate science to those who may have been previously unengaged by the mainstream knowledge process and, importantly, acting themselves as public sites of alternative expertise for a climate sceptical audience.

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The full open access paper can be seen here.

There is only one little fatal mistake IMHO on sentence one of the paper:

Evidence supporting the reality of climate change and its anthropogenic cause is overwhelming in the peer-reviewed literature (J. Cook et al. 2013; Doran and Zimmerman 2009).

Apparently she’s not following just how messed up the Cook et al. paper is. Maybe she and Dr. Richard Tol can talk.

This made me laugh:

While the academic literature to date has focused on the manifestation of climate scepticism in mainstream media forums (Boykoff 2007; Schmidt et al. 2013), little work has been done to understand why climate sceptical blogs exist and what their role may be as public sites of knowledge contestation.

She has no idea why we exist? Better not tell her then, its a big Exxon-Mobil trade secret /sarc. Or, maybe she can ask her Grantham Institute co-worker and ex punk rocker Bob Ward, who I’m sure has an opinion about the matter.

On the plus side, there is this:

Table 7 shows that WUWT is an extremely central node according to this test. The results of this test are interpreted against the mean betweenness score. WUWT has a score of 3971.52, significantly higher than the mean score of 180.31. As anticipated, there was a large overlap between the results for this test and those for Freeman’s in-degree centrality, with six blogs appearing in both sets of results. Accordingly, Climate Audit, ICECAP, JoNova and No Frakking Consensus also join the short-list of the most central blogs.

skeptical_blog_rank_table7

I think the mean score of 180.31 is a typo, likely 1800 and change.

WUWT is an extremely prolific blog, with 190 posts for  March 2012 alone; however, the posts analysed had several reoccurring sub-themes under the overall category of science, with a predominant interest in alternative explanations for climate models, temperature data or human-induced climate change, largely in the form of scientifically-based challenges to published science.

The conclusion is also interesting, an excerpt:

The most noteworthy finding of this research however is that the blogs identified as the most central predominantly focus on the scientific element of the climate debate. Within this overall focus, providing a direct scientifically-based challenge to mainstream climate science, or a critique of the conduct of the climate science system (such as individual climate scientists’ actions or institutional decision-making) appear to be particularly important themes. As highlighted above, the direct scientific challenge that the climate sceptical blogosphere provides may be thought of as either trend or attribution scepticism (Rahmstorf 2005). The blogosphere’s focus on the scientific element of climate scepticism is important because it stands in direct contrast to research carried out among the general public, where the prevalence of trend and attribution scepticism is low compared to other types of scepticism, such as scepticism regarding the need for mitigation policies (Akter et al. 2012). This result also contradicts claims that climate science is ‘adrift in the blogosphere’ (Schäfer 2012: 529) because even though few climate scientists themselves blog—and are suggested to mainly focus on addressing the “pseudoscience” implied as existing within the climate sceptic blogosphere (Schäfer 2012)—this does not mean that science itself is not an active topic of discussion.

Still, that won’t stop climate zealots like Joe Romm and others from claiming WUWT and other skeptical blogs are “anti-science”, since that’s a convenient label for them to pitch to their low-information readers.

As always, thanks to my contributors, readers, and moderators for helping to put WUWT at the center of the climate blogosphere.

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“From the thanks for painting a target on my back department….” +10 points! That literally made me chuckle out loud for the first time today…

DaveG

“little work has been done to understand why climate sceptical blogs exist”
To expose the real science method and proven/realistic facts!

Anthony – Write to Amelia S right away, point out her fatal error with full supporting documentation. Seriously. It could give her a one of those defining moments.

P Walker

At least she admits that WUWT is science based .

Apparently, you can get a PhD these days just for using a bunch of multi-syllable words.

JimS

The skepticism is settled.

Pathway

What many people fail to realize is that there are more scientist alive today than in the whole sum of history. WUWT probably has more people who are actively engaged in science or have worked in science research than any other forum.

Kevin Lohse

“…direct scientifically-based challenge to mainstream climate science,…” A more accurate description would be ,”consensus climate science”, but maybe such a significant nod to the politicisation of the discipline could lead Ms Sharman into asking uncomfortable questions which might affect her grant. Anyway, good luck to her.

Congradulations Anthony. Some well deserved recognition here!

While her bias does show through, I will hand it to her that she appears to be trying to do an unbiased evaluation.
I wonder how the team will spin it.

RHS

Pathway – I think you hit the nail on the head! It’s been a while since I’ve heard that. It stands to reason with so many people looking at problems, we will have more debate, cynics, sarcasm, and disagreement before a “consensus”.

John F. Hultquist

WUWT = 3971.52
I’m wondering about that ‘2’ .

jorgekafkazar

Joe who?

Mike Edwards

Pathway hits the nail on the head – there are now a lot, lot more trained scientists out in the big wide world than there are in academia. Many who are experts in one or other of the aspects of science employed by climate scientists – Steve McIntyre is a shining example. Add in the extraordinary communications vehicle of the internet and the cosy old academic club approach to science comes in for a very hard time…

The conclusion was pretty interesting:

The most noteworthy finding of this research however is that the blogs identified as
the most central predominantly focus on the scientific element of the climate debate. Within this overall focus, providing a direct scientifically-based challenge to mainstream climate science, or a critique of the conduct of the climate science system (such as individual climate scientists’ actions or institutional decision-making) appear to be particularly important themes. As highlighted above, the direct scientific challenge that the climate sceptical blogosphere provides may be thought of as either trend or attribution scepticism (Rahmstorf 2005). The blogosphere’s focus on the scientific element of climate scepticism is important because it stands in direct contrast to research carried out among the general public, where the prevalence of trend and attribution scepticism is low compared to other types of scepticism, such as scepticism regarding the need for mitigation policies (Akter et al. 2012).

The sort of debate she describes is precisely how the scientific method weighs and judges competing hypotheses. It’s just happening outside of academia in blogs.

Auto

“A network of 171 individual blogs is identified” from the abstract.
“Table 7 shows that WUWT is an extremely central node according to this test. The results of this test are interpreted against the mean betweenness score. WUWT has a score of 3971.52, significantly higher than the mean score of 180.31” from the extract above.
180.31 seems to be the mean of 171 ‘betweenness’ scores, so perhaps the polysyllabic prophetess is right – on that, at least . . . .

starzmom

I am still trying to wrap my head around the idea that studying the blogosphere has some relationship to geography.

rtj1211

The person who wrote this needs to study ‘politics in scientific research funding 101’: if they did that they wouldn’t be in the least surprised at the things being said.
‘Little is known about why climate skeptical blogs exist’ = gissa grant for me to find out why and publish a paper telling you.
‘Global warming is incontestable’ = I need another grant now this study is finished and saying this keeps me on the right side of the political funders.
There are three constants in scientific papers:
1. The prevailing political climate is always supported.
2. More research is always needed.
3. Angles where new funding could be secured are always alluded to.

Riki

Such elegant use of language! The “mean betweenness of node centrality!” Ah, sociology…psuedoscience at its best.

Congratulations, Anthony

Mike Maguire

I’ve been an operational meteorologist for 31 years. Radio, then television for 11 years and since then trading commodities using the influence of the weather on crop yields and energy demand. I spend much of the day looking at weather maps and market information but over the last several months have included checking in daily, to see what’s on WUWT.
The reasons?
1. Authentic, science based information from fellow scientists based on ideas rooted in the real world.
2. An incredible number of articles, that often contain many profound comments which include additional thoughts/links.
No need to spend a great deal of time trying to find the latest papers or breaking news. Anthony finds it and posts it here.

ossqss

She should be asking whay skeptics exist. Blogs are just an outgrowth of such. That would lead her to the real question she doesn’t see yet.
Why is mainstream climate science so easily debunked?
A real study needs to be done with respect to recurring distributions of climate funding and the nature of the projects supported by such funding. That will paint a very vivid picture as to how we got here and why.
It is about money in the end, no?

Theo Goodwin

WUWT does the heavy lifting in criticism of climate science. Alarmists are now talking about natural regularities and natural variability. That is new talk for them and it came directly from WUWT. Alarmists are talking about ENSO and the AMO. That came from Bob Tisdale and others at WUWT. In the near future, the Alarmists that remain will be talking about Willis’ cloud hypotheses. At this time, talk about actual physical hypotheses begging for empirical investigation is a bridge too far.
It is ironic that WUWT is the leader in criticism of climate science. In the natural order of things, the most severe critics of a science are supposed to be those who created the science. In the natural order, Gavin Schmidt’s blog should offer the most severe criticism of climate science.

DirkH

“Or, maybe she can ask her Grantham Institute co-worker and ex punk rocker Bob Ward, who I’m sure has an opinion about the matter.”
Ah! Depressive alarmist theme song:
The Damned / I Just Can’t Be Happy Today

Susan P

I would read the whole paper, but I have to get to work calculating my Betweenness Scores for my PhD thesis on which cute cat/cute dog videos provide the most laughter and enjoyment/life enhancement per minute spent watching.

DirkH

“little work has been done to understand why climate sceptical blogs exist and what their role may be as public sites of knowledge contestation.”
She wonders because she has learned that all grassroots organisations are founded and funded by socialist billionaire foundations – like the Soros-controlled website junkyard – or totalitarian ultrastates such as the EU – who control zombie orgs like Friends Of The Earth.

John Mason

On the one hand it’s interesting to see the number of studies trying to understand the skeptical mind.
On the other hand it’s disturbing to see the base assumptions being made that make these authors believe skeptics need to be studied rather than any possible consideration that the supposed consensus is flawed.
Quoting Cook, of course, underscores how backwards this study is.
In another positive and weird observation, the author finds, almost surprisingly, that the mighty center of this alternative to scientific information actually seems to have a basis of discussing the science rather than being ideologically based.
Slaps forehead……

Kev-in-Uk

Roy Spencer says:
September 9, 2013 at 12:29 pm
Sir, that is precisely what my initial thoughts were! – but it also illustrates why I refused to continue in academia also after my brief M.Sc.return in 80’s. I just felt their was too much self justification and not enough actual justification….

kwinterkorn

I think Sharman’s work is complimentary to WUWT, perhaps inadvertently or perhaps because her exposure to WUWT made her a closet “skeptic”. After all, her statement is that WUWT is focused on the science of climate and is this not true?
I admire WUWT because of its principled focus on scientific method, climate theory, the limitations of our current knowledge of climate-related facts (eg How accurately do we measure temperature in the real world of climate science?), and the difference between real science and “post-normal science” (which is not really science, but politics).
Everyone who is not a “post normal” scientist knows that good science is skeptical.

Nick

She should of course do the same for the alarmists, and where they get their cash, referee each other’s papers, ….

tarran says:
September 9, 2013 at 1:00 pm
The sort of debate she describes is precisely how the scientific method weighs and judges competing hypotheses. It’s just happening outside of academia in blogs.

I find the lack of consideration of alternative explanations in 95% of published climate science really startling. Whatever the results, it was CO2 that did it.

‘It is possible that….these blogs serve as an “echo chamber”, within which users are ‘consuming news that mesh with their worldview and ideology’ (Boykoff 2013: 15), thus contributing to
Hoffman’s (2011a) concept of a logic schism within the climate debate. ‘
Good thing that there are lots of threads showing WUWT participants at each others throats (metaphorically speaking) over issues of religion/unbelief and by our resident left-wing participants taking umbrage over right-wing participants’ characterizing CAGW as lefty group-think. Perhaps Ms. Sharman should go deeper than meta-analysis of data….
What goes on here is really not a secret, nor are we conspiracy theorists. FYI, Ms. Sharman, it was my existing skepticism over how science was being conducted and presented in this debate that drew me – a university professor and historian of science with a science background – to WUWT – because of the challenges WUWT posed to shoddy science.
Mainstream western science has under its belt both phrenology and eugenics. It also has the rejection of continental drift or the bacterial origins of ulcers — and countless other theories that turn out in the end to be closer descriptions of what is going on than the accounts accepted by ‘mainstream’ scientists. These serve as testaments to how wrong the kind of science that you want to accept – or believe in – can be. Historians of science should know better than to accept the current theory being defended in any science as being necessarily correct – and so should scientists.

Reg Nelson

“because even though few climate scientists themselves blog”
She obviously didn’t research this paper very well. Gavin has a blog. Cook (who she cited) has blog. GISS & NOAA use websites to push there agenda, and Mann uses Twitter to disseminate his propaganda.
And that’s just off the top of my head.

Annie

I couldn’t believe the amount of gobbledegook but managed to get some idea of what she was trying to say eventually….I think. Are people awarded degrees and doctorates for this sort of thing?

Steve C

Why do climate sceptical blogs exist? Because there are still too many scientifically literate people out here who can quickly recognise the sort of pseudoscientific tosh pumped out by the blatherskites promoted as “climate scientists”, and who want to see real science restored to its pedestal. And, btw, who will fight every attempt by the political class to turn real science into some sort of fluffy feelgood rubbish like the social “sciences”, for ever and ever, amen.
And every credit to our excellent host here, and the others, for helping that process along. (Except, it seems, financial “credit” from Big Oil … 😉

rogerknights

I’m surprised “Climate etc.” isn’t among the top ten. Didn’t she consider it skeptical enough to be included in her survey?
For a good general critique of government-funded science she should read Henry Bauer’s Dogmatism in Science and Medicine. See this WUWT thread on it at:
http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/11/05/dogmatism-in-science-and-medicine-how-dominant-theories-monopolize/

clipe

While mainstream scientific knowledge production has been extensively examined in the academic literature, comparatively little is known about alternative networks of scientific knowledge production. Online sources such as blogs are an especially under-investigated site of knowledge contestation. Using degree centrality and node betweenness tests from social network analysis, and thematic content analysis of individual posts, this research identifies and critically examines the climate sceptical blogosphere and investigates whether a focus on particular themes contributes to the positioning of the most central blogs.
“knowledge production”? What about facts?
http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/181349/Albert-Einstein/256586/Coming-to-America

DirkH

vigilantfish says:
September 9, 2013 at 1:38 pm
“What goes on here is really not a secret, nor are we conspiracy theorists.”
Of course we are. “Conspiracy theorist” is the official US American name that the controlled media system uses to label everyone who has a deviating opinion.

Latitude

Just so I’m clear on the concept…..are these the same type of people that berate Christians?
I suppose this could be reworded to something of the effect of…..”why do atheist blogs exist”
…using that comparison
Global warming atheist blogs exist because people do not believe……
(I ate a lot of chocolate a little while ago…I’m on a sugar and caffeine rush)

DirkH

clipe says:
September 9, 2013 at 1:57 pm
“”While mainstream scientific knowledge production has been extensively examined […]”
“knowledge production”? What about facts?”
Production as in Hollywood CGI movie production.
Same technology.

Barry Woods

If you can get past the Doran and Cook citation. There is much of merit in the paper.
Not least that the majority of blog are science based scepticism. Which will upset dome, the consensus police might have a some words to say about that (that’s SkS) Also that sceptic blogs by and large are not political or motivated by ideology. Everyone might find stuff to criticise, but this is not a paper about ‘deniers’ and her earlier work was of some interest as well. Not a closed mind.
Read the ‘entrenpeneur’ ref at Bishop Hill.
I have taken up Amelia’s request to particpate in her research. Had a chat on twitter. And sent her a copy of – The Consensus on the Consensus.
Ref WUWT post. What else did 97% of scientists ssy?

pokerguy

“Apparently she’s not following just how messed up the Cook et al. paper is. Maybe she and Dr. Richard Tol can talk.”
Good point, but of course even if she were made aware, perhaps by first tossing a [trimmed by author request] into that echo chamber she lives and works in, it wouldn’t matter. She knows what she knows, because well, she just knows it. Warmists are good, intelligent, and right, deniers are bad, stupid, and wrong.
Of course the very last thing she’d be engaging in, in her pursuit of a PhD , is original thinking.

wobble

Apparently she’s not following just how messed up the Cook et al. paper is. Maybe she and Dr. Richard Tol can talk.

I would bet that she will want to amend her paper after she actually takes a look at Cook et al.

Jimbo

….little work has been done to understand why climate sceptical blogs exist…

I will save you the bother of work. Climate sceptical blogs exist because a combination of greens, politicians and the media decided for themselves that the debate was over. They then proceeded to shut out sceptical climate scientists, block their papers, tried to sack journal editors, deleted FOIA emails, fabricated hockey sticks and smear them as cranks and shills of oil.
The debate has never been over, the science has never been settled. The debate is only hotting up now as a raft of papers lowers climate sensitivity and the temperature hiatus can no longer be ignored.

Tom in Florida

Roy Spencer says:
September 9, 2013 at 12:29 pm
“Apparently, you can get a PhD these days just for using a bunch of multi-syllable words.”
Yes, but the affiliation is with the “London School of Economics and Political Science” so that means as much as Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize. On second thought, perhaps slightly more.

I remember wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy back when Icecap was my daily go to site before I found WUWT!!
Congrats to everyone that makes skeptical blogs possible and FULL OF SCIENCE !!

NZ Willy

I would have a subtly different take than AW does on some content — remember, this is an academic work, and as such, it phrases things in a detached fashion. So my comments:
AW: There is only one little fatal mistake IMHO on sentence one of the paper:
PAPER: Evidence supporting the reality of climate change and its anthropogenic cause is overwhelming in the peer-reviewed literature (J. Cook et al. 2013; Doran and Zimmerman 2009).
AW: Apparently she’s not following just how messed up the Cook et al. paper is.
My comment: I think the author was talking about the presentation of evidence here, not the evidence itself which I don’t think she is investing in. I suspect this has been left vague to assist the prospects for publication.
AW: This made me laugh:
PAPER: While the academic literature to date has focused on the manifestation of climate scepticism in mainstream media forums (Boykoff 2007; Schmidt et al. 2013), little work has been done to understand why climate sceptical blogs exist and what their role may be as public sites of knowledge contestation.
AW: She has no idea why we exist? Better not tell her then, its a big Exxon-Mobil trade secret
My comment: The author’s comment was strictly about what has appeared in the peer-reviewed literature, and not about her own view at all. As a matter of fact, this sentence is probably part of the justification given for presenting this paper, that is, it states that it is remedying a void in the literature. This is often done in a paper’s introduction.

In Atlas Shrugged, after argument, debate, appeal to emotion, threats and flattery all failed, they hooked John Galt up to a torture machine – the “Ferris Persuader”.

DirkH

Tom in Florida says:
September 9, 2013 at 2:10 pm
“Yes, but the affiliation is with the “London School of Economics and Political Science” so that means as much as Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize. On second thought, perhaps slightly more.”
She’s at the LSE? Then she can slip right in to the Fabian Society or GLOBE international and contribute personally to the destruction of the West.

Dave

I’m a PhD candidate and have been running numerical simulations on material behavior for the past 25 months and I have at least one more month to go before I’m done. It’s been a long haul, but it’s supposed to be. When reading a description of the “work” that Ms. Sharman is doing for her PhD, I have to wonder whether she spent a long weekend conducting her “research”.
Good grief…